The Price of Travel

Puno was the last part of my trip to Peru and was the perhaps the place where I had my longest conversations with people. It’s was an hour or so long boat ride to the island and I overheard someone saying that the group of people on that boat ride were from 11 different nationalities which was pretty cool.

On the walk up to the island I got talking to 2 British girls who I noticed had brought their own packed lunch even when food was offered as part of the tour. I got to know that one of them was lactose and gluten intolerant and her friend was just keeping her company. It also turned out that were actually students who had taken a year off so that they could go on a super long vacation of 3 -4 months to several places over the world. They were planning to go to to New Zealand and other places quite a distance away after they were done here. I asked them how they were managing things planning wise and financially.

Turned out they worked jobs full time for a few months before this vacation to be able to pay for everything with no financial help from their parents. One, I was instantly jealous that they were going to be on such a long vacation and secondly it was both fascinating and and a revelation that at their age, just working for a few months could earn them enough money to go on such a long a vacation. I was on vacation for just 8 days in a single country and it took a sizable chunk of my savings. I probably would not have been able to extend my stay any longer due to financial reasons. It really gave me perspective of how the economics of life are so different in countries.

Towards Machu Picchu

The road upto Machu Picchu from the town below happens on a fairly dangerous looking bus ride that always made me feel like a driver error would send me plummeting downwards. I got talking to an old lady in the seat next to me and it turned out it was her 8th time to Machu Picchu. While she initially visited as a tourist she now brought groups of people there. I was lucky enough to make it just once.

I went up to Machu Picchu a couple of times and on the first day I was part of a guided tour. While I took the train to the town below Machu Pichu some people prefer to take the 4 day Inca trail. I got talking to a guy in the group who was supposed to do the trail but ended up missing the trek group when they set off.

I talked to him quite a bit about it during the tour. When the guided tour ended we all went our separate ways. As part of my tour package I had a coupon to have lunch at a restaurant at the top itself. So I went and sat myself down to lunch there. A little while later the same guy came up to my table and shook hands with me and said goodbye. Turned out he was about to leave Machu Picchu and he happened to spot me in the restaurant while passing by and thought he should just shake to our travel friendship before he left.

On my 2nd day in Machu Picchu I just didn’t wish to get away from it. I spent almost 3 hrs at a vantage point from where I could look down below upon that magnificent city. While sitting there, I noticed a Japanese girl who was also sitting nearby for a very long time. At that moment I could only imagine that as a traveler she must have been experiencing the very same thing that I felt there at that moment. Machu Picchu overwhelms you in that way. She didn’t speak English but she was very eager to get a picture of herself and it was only after me clicking 3 -4 times and being satisfied with it that she finally let it go. Since we were the only 2 people sitting there I got her to click a few pics for me too and in my opinion it I got one of the best pictures from my trip.

Sharukh Khan at Aguas Calientes

When I had gone to visit Machu Pichu I stayed at the base town of Aguas Calientes for a day. One night I was walking around trying to settle on which restaurant I wanted to go have dinner at. Most restaurants usually seemed to have a guy standing at the entrance trying to convince tourists to come eat at their place. One of them recognizing that I was Indian tried to lure me into eating at his place by telling me that Sharukh Khan ate there. For any non-indians who may happen to read this he is one of India’s most famous film actors. I found it rather amusing that he would try this approach given that in today’s times his popularity with the younger generation is quite debatable. Or I’m probably not representative of this generation at all.

Interestingly there was another restaurant bearing the name of another Bollywood actor called Govinda. Unfortunately it was shut.

Inca Cola

On my first day in Cusco we had a small museum tour of the city. I got to talking to a British lady for a bit who was in same tour group. After the tour we were dropped off to spend the rest of the day ourselves. They had informed us that there was a traditional prayer ceremony that took place in the evening and we could go and watch if we were so inclined. While I started walking away by myself towards the city center I dropped into local shop to exchange dollars for some local currency. When I came out I saw the same lady outside waiting for me with her daughter. She said I saw that you were alone and we thought we’d give you company if you were on your way to see the prayer ceremony. It was a very sweet and totally unexpected gesture.

I asked her about her family back home. Turned out she had 2 other kids but they couldn’t come together because it would have been too expensive for everyone to make it. Another question that I frequently encountered not just from her but several people I would come to meet was just how come I could speak English so well. It was quite surprising because I always imagined that Indians were pretty much everywhere in the world by now. Come dinner time, they invited me to join them but I politely declined and said my goodbye. I can’t remember her name but I think it was Penny.

While I had stopped at a local marketplace an old gentleman and his wife told me to try a local dish Papas a la huanciana that I tried and enjoyed on my last day in Peru.

On the way to a visit our tour group had stopped at this very lovely restaurant. I happened to share my table with a British guy who ordered a locally branded drink called Inca Cola. When I asked him about it he described it as something unique with a bubble gum kind of flavour to it. He kindly offered me a taste and I was addicted to it instantly. It was my go to drink on every single day thereafter I spent in Peru. It was perfectly fitting that the last drink I ended up having as I was leaving Peru at the airport was Inca Cola

The People We Meet

We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend. – Robert Louis Stevenson

Why do we travel? Of course it’s about the places we wish to see, the experiences we always dreamed of having, the food we taste and the cultures we try to understand. In this connected age we already learn a great deal about a place before we make our plans to travel. In some regards, you can almost predict some of the experiences you might have on your journey. Sometimes we are underwhelmed. Sometimes the real thing can exceed our wildest expectations. As immense as our world is, even with the earth constantly spinning, the places we all flock to remain where they are on the map. They are shaped by forces of nature and the people that pass through them. When we set out on a journey we can chose from a million places, but we can never predict whom we encounter from among a billion faces.

There are no strangers in this world, just friends we’ve never met

I will never forget the moment when I visited Machu Pichu, stood above it and looked down below upon of civilisations most spectacular structures. Just thinking about it gives me a rush. What always brings a smile to my face though, is also the people I met and spoke to on my trip, from all walks of life, from all over the world. I don’t have the best memory and I never took pictures with most of the people I conversed with. All I recollect is bits and pieces of our conversations and going through the photos of the places where I came across them usually sparks a memory.

More location specific posts related to this coming soon.

Explaining Indian Marriage in Peru

My uncle’s wife happens to be from Peru so on my trip there I stayed at the home of her parents in the city of Cusco for a couple of days.

Their quaint little home in Cusco

Their youngest son also stayed with them and on my last day in Peru he and his girlfriend took me out on a food tour of the city. Unfortunately he didn’t speak much English so my communication with him was very limited. But he was very fun and enthusiastic and going around the small city from place to place was a very enjoyable experience.

A supposedly famous wall in Cusco though I can’t remember it’s significance now

Standing in front of the Fountain at the Plaza de Armas

Enjoying the lovely local dish Papas a la huanciana

When we finally settled down to dinner we tried to converse in the little english we did understand.

Dinner Time

He asked me if I was married and the conversation somewhere meandered towards understanding how people usually got married in India. I tried my best to explain to him the very complicated concept of arranged marriage. I told him about how once a guy had decided that he was ready to get married would go and meet several girls before he decided on the one that he was going to marry. Ofcourse I didn’t delve into stuff like horoscopes and such that would defenitely have gone over his head. As the expression on his face grew incredulous with every passing minute there came a point where he finally said to me “You mean to say you can have many girlfriends at one time”. I burst out laughing all the while thinking how very far from the truth that was or was he right 😛